Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

USA: Donovan seals MLS Cup success for Galaxy (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on November 21, 2011
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan's goal gave Los Angeles Galaxy their first MLS Cup win since 2005

Los Angeles Galaxy claimed the title of Major League Soccer champions for the third time in their history following Sunday’s 1-0 win over Houston Dynamo in the 2011 MLS Cup final. Although the game featured prominently in the headlines before kick-off due to it being David Beckham’s last game for the club, the headlines were reserved afterwards for a true American hero in Landon Donovan whose goal late in the game gave Galaxy the cup for the first time since 2005.

The game remained scoreless after 71 minutes before Republic of Ireland international Robbie Keane played through USA captain Donovan who guided the ball beyond the oncoming Houston keeper Tally Hall to give his side the crucial strike of the final. The 30,000 crowd were treated to one of the league’s better finals in recent years despite the lack of goals and a fitting ending in which the Galaxy proved their worth as the best team in MLS this season.

Their regular season record of 19 wins, 10 draws and 5 defeats saw them pip the Seattle Sounders to the Supporters’ Shield by four points. In the post-season the Galaxy won all four of their knockout games against New York Red Bulls (played over two legs), Real Salt Lake (Western Conference final) and Houston Dynamo to show that they had learnt the hard lessons of 2010 in which they lost out to FC Dallas in the Western Conference final.

Los Angeles Galaxy had already qualified for the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League as a result of winning the Supporters’ Shield and they will be joined in that competition by losing finalists Dynamo, US Open Cup winners Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, who finished third in the Supporters’ Shield behind the Sounders.



USA/England: Becks should follow example of Donovan

Posted in North and Central American Football, UK Football by peterbein on January 4, 2011
Beckham & Donovan

Landon Donovan (right) has refused a loan move back to England. Will Beckham do the same?

The continuing “will he or won’t he” saga regarding a potential move to England’s Premier League hangs over David Beckham and the speculation refuses, for the next couple of days at least, to go away. Perhaps Beckham should put an end to it by announcing that he intends to prepare for the new season with the Los Angeles Galaxy, which begins on March 15th, and finally put the needs of his club ahead of those of his limited aspirations with the English national team.

As tempting as it may be for David Beckham to come back into the fold and be a part of the self-glorifying “Best League In The World” perhaps he should reflect on the fact that he has signed a multi million dollar deal with a club who have come close to winning the Major League in recent years but have suffered from injuries or loss of form at key times of the season. This is in some part due to the non-stop football which the likes of Beckham and his Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan have endured due to their respective loan moves to AC Milan and Everton FC as well as FIFA World Cup commitments. Donovan actively helped his country on the field whilst Beckham was subdued to a more ambassadorial role due to an injury suffered whilst in Milan.

Having played football with virtually no break for two years Donovan saw sense announcing in late December he had decided that preparing with his team ahead of an exciting new season was his priority and, therefore, rejected Everton’s overtures to join them on loan for a second time. Beckham should now give the same assurances especially given that a speculated loan move to Tottenham Hotspur would be very strange seeing that the player himself said only weeks ago that he would want to play in the English Premier League again but “only for Manchester United”, even if he did utter in the same sentence that he wasn’t holding his breath on such a move taking place. It is no secret that Beckham still has ambitions with the England national team but just how crucial is he going to be when the 2012 UEFA European Championships and/or 2014 FIFA World Cup come around? Already 35 years old, perhaps Beckham should finally allow someone to replace him on a permanent basis and blood some new life to an England side which has looked stale for some considerable time.

Also there is going to be an increased schedule in Major League Soccer next season with two new franchises, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, becoming the latest members of an expanded league which will increase to 18 clubs from the 2011 season. This will mean a minimum of 34 regular season games, an increased play-off schedule (if necessary) with ten of the 18 teams playing in the post-season MLS Cup to determine the champion plus international club commitments such as the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League. One final factor to consider is the fact that everybody in the league, whether it be the administrators, sponsors or, most importantly, the fans, feels that the time is right for Beckham to really start giving something back to MLS. Since 2008 Beckham has appeared for the Galaxy 45 times in MLS games, compare that to his two loan spells at the San Siro where he appeared in 28 games and would’ve been at least a few more had he not picked up an achilles tendon injury which kept him out of football for six months. One feels that the best way to get everybody onside is to do what he is paid to do; to play and promote both his team and the league as a whole.

MLS: Galaxy into orbit thanks to Donovan (+video)

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 20, 2010
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in Galaxy's 2-1 victory over DC United

Who needs David Beckham when you’ve got Landon Donovan? Despite the publicity and interest which the former England captain brings to Major League Soccer (MLS) and to his club, it is the all-American hero Landon Donovan who is helping Los Angeles Galaxy maintain their strong position at the top of the league in the absence of Beckham.

Not only do the Galaxy have a healthy nine point lead at the top of the Western Conference standings but they also appear on course to win the MLS Supporters Shield, the trophy given to the team with the best regular season record in the whole of the league after thirty games. Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew, who have the second best record in the league at the moment, are eight points worse off although they do have a game in hand on the Galaxy. Nonetheless with the league’s meanest defence – only eight goals conceded – and the second best attack having scored one goal less than Real Salt Lake (28 goals) then it is clear that the Galaxy are there as the team to beat in MLS this season and Donovan has been instrumental to their success.

Donovan has the best stats in the Major League for assists and “game-winning” assists plus he has chipped in with two goals of his own this season. The latest of which came in the Galaxy’s 2-1 win away at DC United on Sunday night. The league’s top-scorer Edson Buddle kept up his good form by giving LA Galaxy the lead seven minutes before half-time and his goal separated the two teams at half-time. Then Andy Najar equalized for DC United in the 54th minute but this only brought about a reaction from the Galaxy who, just three minutes later, dispossessed United in midfield and, having worked their way into the box, won a penalty kick thanks to a handball. The resulting penalty was dispatched by Donovan who was back in the team having missed the previous match away at New England Revolution, a game which the Galaxy lost 2-0 and recorded only their second defeat in MLS this season. The other defeat came one day before the FIFA World Cup kicked off in South Africa as Galaxy lost 1-0 against Real Salt Lake; Donovan didn’t play in that game either.

The standings in the Western Conference show LA Galaxy with 39 points after seventeen games, their nearest challengers for the Conference title being the defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake who are nine points adrift but have a game in hand. In the Eastern Conference Columbus Crew top the standings with thirty one points from sixteen games, five ahead of Thierry Henry’s new club New York Red Bulls.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF DC UNITED V LA GALAXY HERE:

FIFA World Cup draw – The Verdict

Posted in International Football by peterbein on December 5, 2009
Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron hosted the World Cup draw in South Africa

The draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Presented by Charlize Theron (pictured) and including a host of figures from the football world including FIFA president Sepp Blatter and perhaps  the most recognisable sporting icon in the world David Beckham, the draw did throw up some intriguing individual ties and some interesting groups. “Stoppage Time” assesses the groups and the matches that should shape the fortunes at the beginning of the tournament:

GROUP A: SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO, URUGUAY, FRANCE

The host nation should find it very tough in a group which looks like it will be very close. The French will be favourites to go through but their clash against Mexico could decide who wins the group. However the South Africans may harbour hopes of surprising Mexico in the opening game of the tournament. Uruguay, with their deadly strike force of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, will certainly fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. Their final group game against Mexico could be amongst the most intense of the championship.

GROUP B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, SOUTH KOREA, GREECE

Almost an exact copy of Group D in the 1994 FIFA World Cup (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece played in a group that contained Bulgaria instead of South Korea). Despite qualifying the tough way Argentina should top this group quite comfortably, the opening match against Nigeria will probably be their toughest assignment. However the Greeks may wish to spring a surprise in much the same way that they did in EURO 2004 when they became European Champions. South Korea can only expect to finish bottom.

GROUP C: ENGLAND, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ALGERIA, SLOVENIA

Almost after the draw had finished the English media were in overdrive, hyping up their country’s chances of winning the 2010 World Cup. It’s true that they should expect to top this group with relative ease. The only match of real interest is England’s opening clash with the USA, a game that throws back terrible memories for the “Home of Football”. If the Americans can repeat their 1-0 victory in the 1950 World Cup (so unbelieveable a result in those days that the English media initially reported a 10-0 victory for England!) then it would leave the group wide open. The match will have a personal edge involving the LA Galaxy footballers David Beckham and US Captain Landon Donovan, a war of words between the two earlier in the season may add a bit of extra spice to this match. Algeria and Slovenia will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

GROUP D: GERMANY, AUSTRALIA, SERBIA, GHANA

Not as easy for Germany as it may appear on paper. The Australians were very unlucky to lose to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup (a dubious penalty tucked away by Francesco Totti five minutes into stoppage time) and they will hope to put up a challenge for the top spot in this group. Serbia are competing in their first finals as an independent nation and have a leader in Manchester United player Nemanda Vidic. Ghana could be a team that plays open, attacking football but their defence will concede plenty of goals. Germany are quietly optimistic that they can go far in this tournament. The matches between themselves, Australia and Serbia should determine the outcome of the group.

GROUP E: NETHERLANDS, DENMARK, CAMEROON, JAPAN

This group looks to be a fairly comfortable one for the Dutch. As I reported in my blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part Three” the Dutch had a very easy group in qualifying and they will look to take that form into this group. Cameroon will be a strong contender for second place and with players like Samuel Eto’o and Geremi can give the Danes a tough challenge when they meet in their second group match. Japan have improved as a nation in the last decade but won’t be expected to trouble the other three too much.

GROUP F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, NEW ZEALAND, SLOVAKIA

The current world champions Italy won’t have too much trouble getting through this group. The opening group game between themselves and Paraguay should be among one of the better ones in the group stages. Slovakia are a tough team on their day and won’t go down without a fight. However they may be just a little too inexperienced at this level and will find it tough to get to the Round of 16. New Zealand will be ecstatic to be in South Africa but their squad is very limited, therefore expect defensive tactics from a nation that will want to avoid embarrassment in this tournament.

GROUP G: BRAZIL, NORTH KOREA, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL

There’s a 1966 World Cup feel to this group; it was Portugal who, literally, kicked Pele and his great Brazilian team off the park (Goodison Park to be precise) and it was Portugal who had to come back from 3-0 down to defeat the surprise package of the tournament North Korea 5-3. This time, though, matches in this group involving North Korea should be more clear-cut as they’re the outsiders of this tournament. The Ivory Coast, involved in a tough group including Argentina and Holland in the 2006 World Cup, will be expecting as tough a time in 2010 but some will feel that they can beat Portugal, whose qualification for the World Cup was only confirmed via a play-off. If the Ivorians can get three points against Portugal in the opening group match then they should reach the second round.

GROUP H: SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, HONDURAS, CHILE

The current European champions Spain are currently the favourites to win the FIFA World Cup and they will be encouraged further having seen the draw. They should easily overcome the challenges of their group rivals leaving the rest to fight it out for second place. Honduras qualified thanks to events elsewhere (see blog “FIFA World Cup draw preview – Part One) but aren’t expected to get through this group, therefore the match between Switzerland and Chile (both teams’ second group match) should prove to be amongst the more important.